Tropea is a little town on the southern coast of Italy, about an hour’s drive from Lamezia airport.  Of all the little towns that dot the coast, Tropea is one of the more popular, especially in tourist season. Many of the tourists are fellow Italians or other Europeans (mainly Germans too), looking for a warm seaside holiday.

Tropea’s most famous landmark is the church that is perched on a rock jutting out over the sea. Santa Maria dell’Isola is amazing to look at during the day and even more spectacular at night, when it is lit up and visible from the many lookout points around the city.

Santa Maria dell'Isola at night

Tropea is a typical European town – lots of cobblestones, cafes and gorgeous architecture. The Old Town is closed off to most traffic (some cars are allowed, but you need a permit and even then, are only allowed to drive at certain times on certain days).

Sidewalks are rare, so walking in the streets is commonplace (the boys were a little unsure of this at first, but quickly came to love it), although navigating the cobblestones with a stroller is definitely a learning curve.

The town itself is situated on the edge of a cliff, with a series of steps leading down to the beach. There are a few access points throughout the town but the main ones are right in the center of town.

Beside the steps is a viewpoint, complete with a cannon that kids can sit on as the adults appreciate the view. From here you can see the Santa Maria church, the beach below and the apartments and houses that are perched right on the edge of the cliff, seemingly built right into the edge of the cliff and only holding on by some sort of luck.

view of houses perched on the edge of a cliff in Tropea

Navigating the steps down to the beach is easier than it looks. The steps are wide and there are a few spots along the way to stop and take a breath, while admiring the view. Once you reach the bottom, there are beaches to the left or to the right. We tried both, but preferred the one to the right, which is situated right at the base of the church. The outcrop that the church is situated on seems to protect the beach and the waves are calmer here than at other beaches in the town.

We spent a few hours each day at the beach, but couldn’t stay the entire day like some families did. The boys are pretty fair and must have been the most clothed kids on the beach!

We had to have a bit of an introduction on the waves and a little lesson on how to body surf (3 year old style) in the waves. Once they figured it out, there was no getting them out! They had a fantastic time playing in the surf and on the beach.

The sun is hot though, and sunburns still happened (I didn’t think about the back of ears) but it was well worth it.


Back up to the town (and yes, it is definitely up!), there are a few main streets and quite a lot of smaller pedestrian-only streets. Walking and getting lost in the maze of streets is something everyone needs to do.

The town seems like a maze at first, but you quickly orient yourself and find the main street that runs the length of the Old Town, from the train station right to the lookout over the sea.

Along the way, you’re sure to find many cafes serving espresso and pastries, gelato shops and souvenir shops.

The town, as many other southern European towns do, seems to shut down after a late lunch and come to life again in the early evening. Many restaurants will close after lunch and not open again until 730 in the evening. Dinner is an event in Italy. Everyone dresses up, even the children have sparkles on their sandals. Meals include at least two courses and last until dark.

As North Americans, our meal of pizza or pasta was quick by most standards and earlier than usual. The boys had a bit of a hard time adjusting to the time change, so quite often only one would be awake to have dinner with me. Kids in Italy are treated like little adults – they sat at adult size chairs, ate with the same cutlery I did and the only difference was the server would take away their wine glass. The boys didn’t understand why they kept getting two forks!

view of street in Tropea Italy

Tropea has a few churches and other spots of interest. The tourist office is located in the center of town and provides a map of the town. Many places around town offer day trips to places around the region, or boat trips out to the islands, including an active volcano. All of the tours have the same basic itinerary, but it is worth checking with different places, as some have slightly different pricing. I considered taking one or two of the tours, but the ones that were recommended – where you could see the volcano at night – were long trips and I was worried it would be too long of a day for the boys, although kids were allowed on the tours.

We had a great few days in Tropea. The weather cooperated (I don’t think there’s ever any bad days!) and we only had sun and hot temperatures the entire time. We could have stayed longer, but after the issues we had with our hotels and having to move every day, we were also looking forward to moving on and being able to spend a few days in the same place.

Read more | Top 5 Things to do in Tropea

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